Vancouver International Women in Film Screenplay Competition announces 2017 Official Selections

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VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition founder Michelle Muldoon and jurist Bill Hurst at the 2016 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival.

By Joan Macbeth

The starting point for every great film is a well-written script. The VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition, in its third year, welcomed screenplays from women writers all over the world. Judging was based on a number of criteria, including story composition, scene construction, set-up and pay-off, imagery, character development, formatting, dialogue, and originality. Thanks to our esteemed jury for volunteering their time: Angela Crosato, Mia Divac, Sasha Duncan, Bill Hurst, Dee LeBlanc, Jenny Siddle and Kelly Tatham.

The philosophy of the competition is to replicate a professional experience for the writers, as much as possible. When submitting a script to producers, managers or agents, many times a writer’s success is based on the first few pages of the script. We allow up to 30 pages for the initial read, plus a synopsis, for the jury to decide if the script should advance to the second round. All of our judges are professional story analysts, with the same type of training you might find in the industry “gatekeepers” who make the initial decision on whose screenplays will move up the ladder. For the more advanced screenwriter, our objective is to garner for them industry attention and recognition for excellent writing.

Congratulations to our Official Selections!

Amanda Darling – Mary: The Trials and Tribulations of an Unwed Pregnant Teen in The Ancient World

Ana de Lara – The Virgin Mary Had a Little Lamb

Clara Dollar – Patients

Annie Frazier Henry – Footprints In Blood

Elizabeth Indianos – Libertaire

Alix Joyce – Kill Me

Anita Reilly McGee – Mammy

Lily Mercer – My Old Man

Kristine Stephenson – Flightless

Megan Turner – Amaranthine

For the ten Official Selections, WIFTV provides a prize package that includes a festival pass to VIWIFF 2017, and an opportunity to attend pitch meetings offered during the festival. For the top three finalists, to be announced just before the festival, additional prizes include a downloadable copy of Final Draft software, and an InkTip listing. The first place Grand Prize Winner receives a cash prize of $250.

Special thanks to our sponsors:

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What life looks like a year later for one of last year’s From Our Dark Side winners

darkside-websitejpgBy Brianna Girdler & Michaela Montaner

About this time of year, women writers from across Canada are getting wind of From Our Dark Side, a national English language contest coordinated by WIFTV, and deciding whether or not to submit (or resubmit!) their three-to-five page genre film outline to the competition. In 2015, Elisabeth de Mariaffi was one such person, contemplating and polishing her submission.

Fast forward to 2016, and you’ll probably agree it’s a good thing she did.

From Our Dark Side winners – there are five – join an intensive incubator program designed to support women writers in/approaching the genre market and get their idea for a feature length project to the next stage. Winners also attend workshops at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival (hosted by WIFTV) and receive a transportation subsidy to the Frontières Genre Co-Production Market in Montreal. In both instances, they are set up with potential producers and buyers to receive feedback on their projects.

For Elisabeth, one of five winners from the 2016 competition, the incubator experience was just the beginning. Since winning, her From Our Dark Side submission, Fly Girls, has been optioned, and what was just a three-to-five page outline this time last year, today, is on its way to a screen near you.

As we eagerly anticipate WIFTV member and supporter submissions and resubmissions, our own Brianna Girdler caught up with Elisabeth to hear more about how things have been going since she won “FODS 2016”, and with Rupert Harvey, a From Our Dark Side mentor, and the producer who went on to option Elisabeth’s script.

Elisabeth on life since winning FODS 2016

 

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Elisabeth de Mariaffi, one of the five winners of the 2016 From Our Dark Side genre concept competition.

How do you feel about having your script optioned?

 

I’m thrilled. I’m really new to script writing and this has been a real vote of confidence. The idea itself was something I’d been kicking around in the back of my head for a long time, but I guess I felt unsure about jumping into a genre project — and especially one that feels, at least to me as a literary novelist, *really* genre, a feminist vampire movie that pits a bunch of flight attendant trainees against the vamps at an isolated airport. So obviously it feels great to get this early support for the idea and for me as a writer.

How will the option impact the project and your career?

It moves the project way up on my priority list — it’s now on my personal work schedule for early 2017 and I do find that it’s really helped me open up my thinking about other projects I might like to dream up or take on. I’m more likely to give myself permission to spend time with ideas that seem outlandish and I also find that now, when I think of a story idea, I really think about what might be the best way to tell it: is it short story, is it a novel, is it a film? That’s exciting and fun.

How did the option come about?

Part of the FODS mentorship win was a trip out to Vancouver for VIWIFF — while there, I was lucky enough to meet and talk to a lot of industry insiders, working in all facets of movie making and promotions. I live about as far away from Vancouver as you possibly can, while staying within Canada: St. John’s, Newfoundland. So I figured, if I was out there, I’d make the most of it and try and meet up with as many people as I could. That kind of thinking resulted in some great conversations, and one of those conversations was with the producer who has since optioned Fly Girls.

Now that it’s optioned, what’s next for Fly Girls?

Now comes the hard part: I write the screenplay. I’m just trying to clue up a few other pre-existing projects, and will be moving on to the Fly Girls script early in the new year.

What’s your next project? Will you continue to work in genre?

Well, currently I’m juggling two projects. One of those is the screen adaptation of my novel, The Devil You Know, which is a thriller about a rookie news reporter investigating the cold case murder of her childhood best friend. The other is a brand-new novel — so brand new, it hasn’t been announced, so I can’t tell you too much about it, but I can say it’s a kind of ghost story, set in 1950s upstate New York. So I guess both of those lean to genre, anyway, but absolutely, I wouldn’t rule out working in genre in future, in any medium.

You primarily write fiction. How did you find the screenwriting experience?

It’s a fascinating change. My way of approaching fiction, in first draft, is really gestural: it’s largely about voice and tone and atmosphere. I find that my approach to screenwriting has been way more disciplined and organized: outline! beat sheet! treatment! I’ve never written an outline for a novel. I wonder, though, if I will now that I see how it’s done?

Rupert Harvey, on judging, then optioning Elisabeth’s submission

Rupert Harvey is a producer and writer, best known for Pump Up the Volume, A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, The Blob, and Critters. He has been working with WIFTV since 2014 as a From Our Dark Side mentor. In 2016, Rupert also participated in the competition jury that ultimately recognized Elisabeth’s submission as one of the top 5 pieces. Here’s what he had to share with Brianna about Elisabeth’s work and his impressions of whether we are approaching gender parity in the industry, genre and otherwise.

How were you first introduced to Fly Girls?

Through Women in Film and Television Vancouver. It was one of the finalists last year and it was one of the ones I particularly liked and thought it had the most potential out of everything I read. I was on the panel and it jumped out at me.

What interested you about it?

The fact that it’s a combination of several different elements sitting on top of a fairly standard, classic format. First on the list is that it was funny, as well as being scary – well, potentially funny. That came through in the one-pager that I initially read. And it was a female protagonist. It was about a group of women under attack and triumphing over evil. It was within an environment that represents so much of the old world attitude towards women. It was a good opportunity to juxtapose some contemporary sensibilities with the tropes of a group of flight attendants. It’s not contemporary, so it offsets that classic world of flight attendants coming from the age of Playboy Magazine and TWA and Pan American Airlines. The hero is a very contemporary character and is set against this slightly distant world of classic anti-feminism – if that’s not too strong a word.

What are your plans for moving forward with the project?

Elisabeth is going to write the first draft of the script. We have a rough date for her to start working on the screenplay in February/March. I would hope we’ll have a draft by the summer, with which we can start developing some of the commercial attributes of the production.

To my way of thinking, this is an old-school enterprise with this one. It’s a theatrical potentially in both the US and Canada, primarily. And I’ll be looking to cast it from both countries. This is not a mini budget, compared to the big stuff, which is the only stuff that manages to get through the filter these days with studios. There’s a fairly demanding number of people in the cast and it’s a location shoot because it requires a small airport or an airfield, which are not generally around Vancouver. We don’t know exactly where we’ll go to shoot it.

Have you noticed any changes over the past few years in terms of women working in professional capacities in filmmaking?

Only in the amount of talk about it. Only in the amount of attention being paid to it. Not practically on the ground to any degree that indicates a great deal has changed. I’m assuming, I’m hoping, that the amount of discussion and conversation and attention being paid to the issue is going to create that change, but it’s slow in coming.

Every time I crew-up, I’m looking for as many women as I can, and it’s still difficult. Part of it, I think, is that the entry level positions are still dominated by men, so there isn’t the opportunity for progression.

The development side of the industry has undergone a bit of a sea change. The last show I worked on was entirely with women executives and you are often pitching to women. But in terms of production, there has not been a lot of change on set.


Do you want to submit to From Our Dark Side? Click here to review the submission guidelines and learn about what’s in it for you.

Can we support your professional development as a woman in the screen-based media industry? Or maybe you can help build WIFTV, as a volunteer or donor, and help us get the industry to gender parity? The first step is membership – learn more here.

A recap of WIFTV’s submission to the CRTC

 

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Sharon & Susan at the CRTC making submissions on behalf of WIFTV members and supporters.

This is an edited version of an email I sent to WIFTV members and supporters. If you would like to become a WIFTV member, please click here. To subscribe to receive occasional updates like this in your inbox, please click here. 

Barely a week ago, I listened via live stream from my Vancouver office as WIFTV board members and advocacy leads, Sharon McGowan and Susan Brinton, made a presentation to the CRTC in Ottawa on behalf of our members and supporters.

In a nutshell, WIFTV traveled to Ottawa to challenge the Commission’s selective enforcement of the Broadcasting Act. Specifically, section 3.1.d.3, which stipulates that the Canadian broadcasting system should:

“…through its programming and the employment opportunities arising out of its operations, serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children, including equal rights, the linguistic duality and multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society and the special place of aboriginal peoples within that society.”

Despite the above, there has never been a Commission policy to support Canadian women’s aspirations and rights to equal opportunities in the productions triggered by Canadian broadcasters, or in the creative personnel who receive employment through those productions.

This being the case, Sharon and Susan challenged the Commission to do the following:

  • By March 2017, develop, file, and begin implementing a plan to achieve 50/50 gender equity in key creative positions of director, writer and producer across its programs of national interest programming by 2020;
  • Implement accurate metrics that track and compare male and female participation in the key creative roles annually and over the three year period; and
  • Present an evaluation report of the 3-year plan in 2020.

The commissioners responded with genuine interest and concern and, less than 24 hours later, I listened again as, using notes from WIFTV’s submission, they challenged broadcasters’ on the lack of gender equity in the key creative positions on the productions they license. The broadcasters were caught off guard and did not have good answers to these concerns.

Colleagues, this is the first time in decades, if ever, that these issues were raised in license renewal hearings.

Though we do not yet know the outcome of the hearing, given the response our presentation received, WIFTV made an obvious impact at the highest level of policy development in the Canadian film and television industry.

I truly believe that with the momentum of the National Film Board, Telefilm, and the CBC’s recent announcements, we are closer than ever to getting to gender parity in Canadian programming, but we will continue to need voices like WITFV’s at the table.

I urge you to read Sharon and Susan’s submission to the CRTC and, if you are moved as I was, I hope you’ll join me in publicly thanking and congratulating Sharon and Susan on WIFTV’s Facebook or Twitter for their hard work and generosity.

If you have not recently had the chance to, I’d like to invite you to chip in to support this work.  

Our advocacy work, including Sharon and Susan’s work and travel on WIFTV’s behalf has been 100% volunteer-led and funded. These efforts will continue in 2017, but with nominal financial contributions from our members and supporters – people like you – we can increase their frequency and impact. With your support, WIFTV can continue to bring the voices and perspectives of our members to forums as crucial as the Commission is proving to be.

Please chip in what you can here: http://www.womeninfilm.ca/donate.html.

As always, thank you for all the ways you support Women in Film and Television Vancouver and our mission.

By Sarah Kalil, President
Women in Film and Television Vancouver

Actor Mentee Laura MacDonald Reflects on her Experience with the WIFTV Actor Career Mentorship Program

Before joining Women in Film and Television Vancouver, I found myself working my restaurant joe job day in, day out, waiting for someone to call me and offer me auditions or projects that never came. I felt completely alone in this business and didn’t even know that I didn’t know what I was doing. I was unconsciously incompetent. I had no idea where to begin. When my acting teacher suggested I look into joining Women in Film and Television and applying for their mentorship program, I jumped at the opportunity to put my passion to work. I appreciated how thorough the application process was; it gave me a chance to reflect on where I saw myself as an artist and where I wanted to go. What am I working on? What are my challenges? What are my goals? These are questions that I hadn’t really asked myself and getting clear on the answers was the first step towards creating the professional life I wanted for myself.

When I found out that I had been chosen to be paired with a mentor, I was thrilled and very nervous. Here was this incredible woman, with decades of experience in the industry, offering to help little ol’ me. I arrived at our first meeting with a million questions, ready to soak in everything I could. What I didn’t anticipate was how excited she was to work with me! I had gained an instant teammate and friend. We hit it off right away, chatting about everything from our roots on the east coast, to classes offered in the city, to personal life balance. All my fears and doubts about my ability washed away. She assured me that I was exactly where I should be – at the beginning.

Over the next six months, we emailed, texted and met up regularly. She gave me valuable insight into the world of auditioning, production, casting, and the role of an actor on set. I came to understand how the camera and casting sees me and worked on putting together reflective marketing material. I grew more confident in not only my acting ability, but in the value of my personality – in who I am, as a woman in film and television.

Of course, the mentorship program is about so much more than just the one on one relationship with a mentor. I was now a part of the WIFTV Mentees of 2016, and what a mighty group we are! I met so many talented, inspiring ladies that I am proud to now call my friends. Getting together with the ladies to volunteer at QUEST food exchange became a highlight of my month. All of a sudden, I didn’t feel alone anymore. I was one of a team who were all working hard to make strides in the industry. I loved sharing our individual stories, how we got to be where we are, and where we want to go. It gave me a real sense that there is a place for all of us. We may all be looking for careers as actors, but in different, specific ways. It’s exciting to think that 10 years from now we could be in the position to become mentors in our own right. I can’t wait to see what this fierce group of ladies accomplishes next.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the mentorship program also opened me up to the larger film and television community in Vancouver. The workshops that were offered introduced me to the respected Actors Business Collective, the inspiring work of Project Limelight and Tuesday Night Live, the monthly Cold Read Series, as well as the greater WIFTV community. I even had the opportunity to stretch my writing skills and preview some beautiful films created by women for the WIFTV film festival. It’s crazy to think that in just one short year, I went from feeling alone to finding my place in Vancouver’s awesome film and television world.

If you’re reading this blog, thinking about applying to be a part of the program, don’t hesitate. There’s a whole world out here eager to help you on your journey. All you have to do is start!

By Laura MacDonald

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VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition Seeks Stories for the Screen – Written by Women

From New York to California, Michigan to Florida, Victoria to Prince Edward Island and points between: Scotland, Wales, France, Turkey and India – the VIWIFF International Screenplay Competition is receiving script submissions from around the globe. #VIWIFF2017 promises a stellar group of screenplays. From historical drama to hysterical comedy, we have a virtual stack of scripts to divvy amongst our talented jury.

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What exactly do the jurists look for? The first round of reading involves only the first act, to a maximum of 30 pages. If the writer has no “reversal” by the end of 30 pages… hmm. Could be a problem with structure. Does the “first act break” catapult the story? Does it make you want to continue the journey with the characters? And who are these characters? Are they introduced in a way that brings them to life – interesting and well delineated? Would an actor want to play them?

So many questions! Is the dialogue snappy? Realistic? Unique to each character? Does it serve a purpose? Does each scene reveal character, advance the plot, or both? Are the scenes “buttoned” at the end? The judges look for continuity and flow, as well as visual writing. Is it easy to “see” the movie as you read the script; does it draw you into the world of the story with imagery? But succinctly and cinematically, without being too wordy.

What about originality? There are only so many plots, or so people say. Is it a new take on a story we know? Is it something we haven’t seen before?

The last item the judges have to determine in the first round: Does the synopsis match the story? Each writer is allowed up to 500 words for a summary of their script. Our jury of well-trained screenwriters and story analysts will choose ten official selections. Those writers will be invited to send in their entire script… and the judges will start all over again, with 80 to 120 pages instead of just 30. Many thanks to our volunteer jurists!

Do you begin to think there’s more to screenwriting than meets the eye? The starting point for every great film is a well-written script. Women tell amazing, dynamic, interesting, thought-provoking, affecting, inspiring, funny and down-right exciting stories. We want to read them all!

Extended deadline: October 15th

For more information and to submit, please visit our website: http://www.womeninfilm.ca/2017_International_Screenplay_Competition.html.

By Joan Macbeth

“A personal obligation to share these stories”: Joella Cabalu and the making of her documentary It Runs in the Family

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Still of It Runs in the Family

Nestled in the back corner of a cozy café on a crisp Saturday morning, I sat down with filmmaker Joella Cabalu to talk about her recent documentaries, StandStill (2013) and It Runs in the Family (2015). We spoke for nearly two hours in what felt more like a friendly conversation than an interview, as Joella shared her emotional journey in the making of both her films. As we sipped our coffees, Joella explained the barriers she faced with tackling a story as personal as the coming out of her brother, but also touched on the rewarding nature of documentary filmmaking.

In 2007, Joella’s brother, Jay, came out to her. Joella recalls, “when Jay came out to me, it was one of those circumstances that was almost surreal – I had to balance being a supportive sister with not letting shock read on my face.” At the time, she was finishing up her art history degree at UBC. She was the first person Jay had told in her family, and she knew that Jay would have a difficult time coming out to the rest of the family, given their Roman Catholic upbringing and Filipino background.

When Joella started studying film at Langara College’s Documentary Film Production program, she began to form a narrative in her mind about Jay’s coming out and its impact on her family. She knew she had to make a 10-minute project as her graduate film. “I knew going into school, I wanted to make essentially what would become StandStill. But really what I wanted to make was It Runs in the Family,” Joella explains to me. She knew the 10-minute short would be a good start to tackling a longer film.

Jay Cabalu

Jay Cabalu

Joella constantly checked in with her brother throughout the writing stages of the film. “For him, it was going to be challenging, having to dig up all of those feelings again,” Joella says. Soon after, she and Jay set out on a journey to track down other queer family members in both North America and the Philippines. As she and Jay got to know their relatives more, they began to think that Jay was not so different from the rest of his family after all. “We’re trying to create this space to have this conversation and normalize it,” she explained.

Joella’s allyship to the LGBTQ+ community, her willingness to be vulnerable, and her empathy towards differing perspectives give the film a sense of maturity and completeness. It neither judges nor is assuming of other identities on the subject of LGBTQ+ rights. The story unfolds organically and both she and Jay are self-reflective in their interviews and encounters with family.

One of Joella’s major moments of reflection was when director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) asked during a screening of a rough cut, why should I care about Jay? Joella realized that the objective of her film was not to portray Jay as a gay person, but as a person – period. “People really became interested in who Jay was when they saw his art,” she explains. Because of this, Joella held a second interview with Jay and included footage of him making his art. This new addition provided a beautiful juxtaposition between Jay collaging materials together on a canvas and piecing together stories of his queer family. In the film, Jay mentions that collaging is the sum of all of his experiences. And so, Joella found the missing piece to complete her film.

“I feel that being the race that I am, and having the background that I have – I immigrated here as a kid – and the gender that I am as well, I am very aware of the inequity in terms of representation in the media. I feel a personal obligation to share these stories. I want my contribution to be unique and to add, for lack of a better word, diversity to the whole thing,” Joella explains.

As the production of It Runs in the Family came to an end, Joella had a very different outlook than when she started the film: “It made me think about why you need to declare to the world [your orientation]?” In traveling to a different culture and listening to her family’s stories and Jay’s feelings, Joella was able to gain a deeper understanding on these issues, and she felt rewarded in how, ultimately, they are family and they will love and accept each other no matter their identity. But most importantly, Joella advises documentary makers “try and find what it means for you” in order to really make the process worth it.

It Runs in the Family will have its hometown premiere at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival on Tuesday August 16th at 9:00 pm, International Village. Buy tickets here.

Joella

Joella Cabalu

It has screened all over North America, winning the Audience Choice Award at the Seattle Asian American Film Festival and special jury mention for social justice documentary at CAAMFest. It will have its Canadian television broadcast on OUTtv in October 2016.

By Zoe Arthur
Photos courtesy of Joella Cabalu

Zoe Arthur is a UBC film production student, minoring in gender, race, sexuality and social justice. She writes about social issues in a critical, feminist framework and aims to show how film can be a powerful tool for social change. 

The Story that Chose Bal Brach

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Bal Brach never wanted a big fat Indian wedding. So how did her documentary about Indian weddings, Little India Big Business, end up becoming her first feature project? “I wanted to look into why I had a reluctance to get married. I went down the rabbit hole looking into Indian weddings. The story really chooses you is what I’ve learned in the process.” In researching the topic, Bal discovered a huge industry in Surrey that caters to the extravagant multi-day weddings that cost families upwards of $100,000. “This is a glimpse into that world and how people are trying to find meaning in these lavish affairs.”

In addition to researching the booming industry, Bal wanted to uncover other people like her, who preferred the non-conventional options. During the three year process of making the documentary, Bal got engaged and married. It was a small (by Indian standards) destination wedding of 85 people in Jamaica. And not without its challenges. Bal described the stressful night before her wedding, when instead of being overcome with excitement, a Sikh priest they had flown in from Texas nearly reneged on his agreement to marry them. “I thought I had found this moderate, progressive priest. The night before the wedding, he said, ‘I don’t think I should be doing this wedding. It should be indoors. It should be done this way.’” A focus of the documentary is the pressure that Indian couples face to pursue the traditional route. Bal hopes the “doc gives people permission to have their own wedding and do it their own way and not bow to societal pressures, whether you’re Indian or not.”

In 2015, Bal pitched her project at the Banff World Media Festival, as the recipient of the Women in Film and Television Vancouver mentorship. When asked how the experience impacted her, Bal said it was huge: “As a journalist, I am used to working in a deadline driven environment; I usually file daily. Trying to work on a longer project and having no resources was difficult, until I heard about Women in Film and Television Vancouver. A friend [Christina Bulbrook] encouraged me to get in touch. There were workshops and there were ways to get this project in front of people that I normally wouldn’t have had access to. That was hugely beneficial, along with learning about the process of making television.” Other women within the community, like Christine Larsen, who was with Creative BC at the time, and Sheila Peacock, from CBC Independent Producers and who recommended Creative BC, were instrumental. It “all led to women helping women get it off the ground.”

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Additionally, Bal felt less lonely throughout the process because of contacts she made at Banff. But access to a community was one thing missing overall. If provided with the opportunity to repeat the experience differently, she said, without much hesitation, she would love more help: “I ended up writing, directing, and producing this myself. I realized it’s a lot of hats to wear.” Part of the reluctance to seek assistance was due to the personal nature and passion surrounding the project. However, Bal is “learning to ask, because there are so many people who are willing to help.”

When asked about her upcoming work, there was a hint of reticence because the documentary still feels so fresh, and like a “pinch me” moment. Not to mention the exhaustion: “Someone asked if I’d do it again. I think if you ask me in a month or two I would be able to give an answer that would be more reflective of the truth, but right now I am overwhelmed. It’s been a long journey; I’m really proud of the project, but I need a break. Putting it all together and starting your own production company and doing this as an independent was the most challenging career move I’ve ever made. Sometimes when I thought it was too much and I couldn’t handle it, something kept pushing me. I don’t know where that energy came from, but whatever the next story is, I hope it gives me another six or seven weeks for a break first, because it is a long process to get this done.”

The finish line is in sight: after a popular social media campaign (the YouTube trailer has garnered over 14,000 views to date), Little India Big Business will air on CBC at 7 pm PST on Saturday in BC and Alberta, and will be available nationwide that same day. Bal attributes the success to interest from both Indians and non-Indians. “It started a conversation within the community. It has ignited a debate about whether or not these $100,000 weddings are too lavish or a waste of money. Outside of the community, it is shock and awe: ‘I’ve always wanted to go to an Indian wedding. I’ve always wondered how much they spend.’ If they watch this and they’re not Indian, they can understand a lot of it is rooted in family and love and that’s why people are willing to spend so much. They really want to celebrate; that’s the root of it.”

Little India Big Business will air on CBC at 7 pm PST on Saturday in BC and Alberta, and will be available nationwide that same day at cbc.ca/absolutelyvancouver/watch.

By Brianna Girdler

The WIFTV Banff World Media Festival Mentorship, a life-changing experience.

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Dawn Brett-Hauschild at the Banff World Media Festival

WIFTV caught up with Dawn Brett-Hauschild, the winner of the WIFTV Banff World Media Festival Mentorship, to find out about her festival experience, the industry professional mentorship, and her upcoming projects. Dawn discussed her time at Banff, and disclosed her exciting future plans to us in a short interview.

1) How was the festival? What was the biggest highlight of the festival for you?

Overall, the festival was amazing – like a fairytale come true. On the first day, I soaked everything in as an observer on the sidelines. But by the end, I had made dozens of real connections with leading broadcasters, agents, and other like-minded writer/producers. I even ran into an old university friend who is now one of the top female directors of original programming in Canada. How crazy is that?

As for highlights, there are so many. Apart from my projects being well received on the whole, a couple of Canadian production executives asked if I’d be willing to relocate outside Vancouver to work on some of their popular television series. Talk about a shot in the arm!

On a personal note, I was also impressed with the open and friendly vibe. Writer/producers rooted for each other. Online influencers explained their craft to conventional television types. Broadcasters spent their precious free time talking with emerging producers. When I heard HBO was being honoured as the Company of Distinction this year, I thought little-known Canadian writer/producers like me would be relegated to the sidelines. Not so. Everyone was so open and accessible at the master classes, the luncheons, and even the exclusive after-parties. The level of candour and camaraderie was so inspiring.

2) What did you learn throughout your Banff World Media Festival experience?

The Banff Festival taught me so much. It gave me a better handle on where the television business is going, and how I best fit into it. I also learned that, as a writer, I have a desirable skill set – one that I can now manage to chart a new course for my career and achieve my creative ambitions.

3) Did the mentorship benefit you? What did you learn from your mentor and how did she help you?

Meeting with Lark’s development executive, Briean Kenward, was the perfect start to this whole experience. She was kind, encouraging and totally accessible – despite her very busy schedule. She did a lot to set a positive tone from the start.

I also have to give a shout-out to WIFTV board member, Dusty Kelly, who was a welcome touchstone at the festival whenever I needed a friendly face in the sea of people. Dusty even introduced me to Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly, who then tweeted a photo of us together, calling us “industry players.” My husband retweeted that one, although I think he liked my photo with actor/director LeVar Burton the best. My husband’s a serious Trekker.

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Dusty Kelly, Dawn Brett-Hauschild and Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly

4) Do you have any new projects on the horizon, or a further development of current projects because of this experience?

Yeah, surprisingly enough, one of my factual television pitches was well received, and now I’m following up with a few different interested broadcasters and production executives to talk next steps. On top of that, I might even have an opportunity to try my hand at scripted television. In short, the whole experience felt like a Cinderella story to me – thanks in large part to my fairy godmother, WIFTV, for giving me the confidence (and financial support) to take my career to the next level. Now, if only the airline could return my lost luggage – all my good shoes were in there.